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Tags Current Affairs

Galactic crash may have triggered solar system formation

Date: 27 May 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

The formation of the Sun, the Solar System and the subsequent emergence of life on Earth may be a consequence of a collision between our galaxy, the Milky Way, and a smaller galaxy called Sagittarius, according to researchers.

 

Background

Previous studies suggested that Sagittarius, a so called dwarf galaxy, had had a profound effect on how stars move in the Milky Way. Some even claim that the massive Milky Way's trademark spiral structure might be a result of the at least three known crashes with Sagittarius over the past six billion years.

 

Details

  • Astronomers have known that Sagittarius repeatedly smashes through the Milky Way's disc, as its orbit around the galaxy's core tightens as a result of gravitational forces.

  • A new study, based on data gathered by ESA's galaxy mapping powerhouse Gaia, revealed for the first time that the influence of Sagittarius on the Milky Way may be even more substantial.

  • The ripples caused by the collisions seem to have triggered major star formation episodes, one of which roughly coincided with the time of the formation of the Sun some 4.7 billion years ago.

  • The researchers looked at luminosities, distances and colours of stars within a sphere of about 6500 light years around the Sun and compared the data with existing stellar evolution models.

  • In some areas of the Milky Way, ripples would lead to higher concentrations of dust and gas, while emptying others. The high density of material in those areas would then trigger the formation of new stars.

  • Every collision stripped Sagittarius of some of its gas and dust, leaving the galaxy smaller after each passage. Existing data suggest that Sagittarius might have passed through the Milky Way's disc again quite recently.

  • It is possible that even the Sun and its planets would not have existed if the Sagittarius dwarf had not gotten trapped by the gravitational pull of the Milky Way and eventually smashed through its disc.

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